Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May I call you Phyllis?

I was making one of those necessary, and usually annoying, phone calls: to order shoes, or question a charge, or change my gas supplier, at the end of a two-year contract that I should never have chosen in the first place. I wish I could remember exactly who it was, for this is a kudo to them or their phone rep.

After I had identified myself to a robot, either by my phone number or the last four digits of my "social", a lovely-sounding human being said to me, "May I call you Phyllis?" I was dumb-founded! How long has it been since anyone asked your permission to call you by your first name?  Daily, someone calls and says, 'Phyllis, are you interested on our special price for grub-control?", when they aren't even my lawn service, or, in my e-mail, there are messages from purveyors of goods I have used that start, "Phyllis, it's time to send Carolyn flowers again."

It is not that I think I ought to be called "Mrs. Greene" because of age or seniority, although I am always older than the caller. Are there any jobs for 90 year old gardeners or even on phone-banks? I think not, although there are plenty of the aging population who could use the income and welcome the diversion.

I have always suggested to care-givers that they call me Phyllis. They are my friends, as is everyone who  helps me in anyway. Nobody should expect due-deference; that should have expired with slavery.   I did have a severely ill friend whose family had called in Hospice. The nurse, on her first visit, called the client by his first name; his wife saw the expression on his face and when they left his room to talk, the wife said, "I think he would prefer to be called Mr. K.....". 'Nuf said.

When I first got very sick, three years ago, I had a care giver who had lived in Paris most of her life, but whose family still lived on the Ivory Coast, where her mother, the matriarch, had care-givers of her own. She had some relationship to African royalty. Martha refused to call me Phyllis; it was improper to use a first name for an older woman. She referred to me as "La Contessa". I was never sure she meant it as a  sign of respect, or if she was inferring that I was surely not worthy of the title, and , in some way, she was condescending of me.

Whatever.  Please, just call me Phyllis. It is very nice if you ask what "title" I prefer. I would appreciate your asking. But I warn you in advance, if you are comfortable with Ms., Mrs. or hey you, just say it. But remember, I ain't no Contessa.  

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